Advice about OUSD Kindergarten

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • My son will be starting kindergarten in 2023 and while I had been planning to just apply to OUSD schools, with an eye on MLA and Manzanita SEED in particular, I am realizing it may be good to have some backups in case we don't get in or those schools don't seem like a good fit for whatever reason.

    Are there any Oakland charter schools that have Spanish immersion at the elementary level? Any other elementary charter schools that people love? Any to avoid?

    I remember reading that Piedmont was opening enrollment to Oakland students - has anyone done this? what was your experience like? In particular, I'm wondering if doing this means giving up your spot in the OUSD application process. Also curious if any of the Piedmont schools have Spanish immersion, from my quick search it doesn't seem like it. 

    Finally, curious about people's experience at the private schools KSS and EBI - given other expenses, I think we could only make that work if we had a scholarship - so one of my first questions how likely is that for a family with two working parents, making just under $250k/year combined? is it purely need based or do they take other things into consideration?

    Any thoughts or experience on school culture in Piedmont schools or the two private schools I mentioned also welcome...for various reasons I'm wary.... 

    We also looked at Spanish immersion schools in Oakland. I don't think there are any charter schools that offer that option.

    While MLA and Manzanita SEED were also on our list, I'd encourage you to also look at International Community School and Greenleaf as well. (We've now got two kids at Greenleaf and really pleased for a variety of reasons.) ICS was by far the school I was most impressed with when I toured a few years ago but we ended up ranking MLA and Greenleaf higher because both of them go through middle school, which gives our kids more years of dual language education.

    We had the experience of not getting into our desired Spanish immersion public school and applied for EBI. We have a combined salary similar to yours, but with house payments, student loans, and a younger kid in preschool, don't have anything close to the kind of disposable income needed for EBI. I think they offered us something like $1k in scholarship. I guess technically we could probably afford it on our salaries, if we refinanced our house and stopped saving for retirement, but those seemed like extreme measures so we gave up on the Spanish thing. I wouldn't count on getting much financial support at your salary level. 

    Just a note that OUSD has more Spanish immersion schools than just MLA and Manzanita SEED, though those are the two best-known. If Spanish is your highest priority, definitely take a look at some of the others, too.

    To enroll in Piedmont, you have to meet the interdistrict transfer requirements. For entering kinders, that's mainly that a parent works full-time in Piedmont or your childcare provider is in Piedmont and is responsible for taking your child to and from school. OUSD has been much stricter about enforcing these restrictions in recent years. (The criteria are set by the state.) And no, there's no Spanish immersion school in Piedmont. You don't give up your spot in OUSD until your transfer is granted, so if you think you qualify, you could apply and also do the OUSD Options process.

    If you’re interested in Spanish immersion, I would highly encourage you to consider ICS as well. It’s much easier to get into than MLA and probably Manzanita SEED too, and it’s a really great school. (Our son is in kinder there this year.) very well resourced, lots of extras, and really dedicated teachers. The location can be a pain in the butt but location doesn’t seem like a concern of yours based on the schools you’re looking at.

  • Hi All,

    We recently moved to the Bay Area and are trying to find a nature pre-school for our child.  Are there any full-day programs where the children are outside all/most the day, weather permitting?  We are coming from a wonderful program on the East Coast where the kids were in a 340 acre park with partially outdoor and fully outdoor options-- indoor was Reggio inspired.  Looking for something similar.

    Also looking for experiences on successfully redshirting a 5 year old for kindergarten in OUSD.  Again, this wasn't an issue where we're coming from but I've heard from a couple people that it's difficult to do in the Bay Area?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    An easy way to redshirt your child is to enroll your kindergarten-eligible child in TK instead. That way you get an extra year of free schooling. You also are likely to have an easier shot at getting into the school of your choice if your child enters in TK, because there are fewer applicants for TK than K.

    A lot of parents, teachers, and even principals insist that OUSD does not allow this, but they do. My son enrolled in TK when he was eligible for K, and I know others at other OUSD schools who have done it. You might encounter pushback from teachers or principals, but the enrollment office has final say about what children are enrolled where. I would just make sure to get in touch with someone in the enrollment office so you feel certain.

    It seems that redshirting isn't that common here though. I know of more kids who skipped K or 1st grade (or were pushed to and refused) than kids who were redshirted in OUSD. 

    By the way, if you are confused why California's TK program exists, the answer is that there is no good reason at all. It was supposed to be a temporary thing to deal with a change in birthday cutoffs years ago. Now the state is arbitrarily giving children with fall birthdays and extra year of free schooling. They are the oldest children in their classes who are least likely to need extra help. But I guess you might as well take advantage of it!

    Welcome! First off, in OUSD there's not an issue with keeping your child back. BUSD is very strict but we had zero issues with OUSD.

    As for schools, this depends on exactly what you are looking for and how far you are willing to drive! East Bay Waldorf school is a trek from Oakland but they have a ton of space (I want to say 80 acres?). They do go indoors but the kids go outside rain or shine as well.

    I have to give a shout out for my son's current preschool, MCPC, as well. It's much smaller than what you're describing but the outdoor space is much larger than the indoor area, and since covid the kids are pretty much always outside. I liked my daughter's preschool but my son (and all his friends) are happier at MCPC than I have ever seen kids. It's a co-op so I know this firsthand. The social-emotional learning and conflict resolution are amazing. The anti-bias curriculum with an emphasis on social justice is incredibly well-implemented in just the way 3-5yos can take it in. And it's actually a truly inclusive school when it comes to non-neurotypical kids. My son thinks nothing of it if he has a playdate with a kid on the spectrum. He's unfazed when someone who he formerly knew as a 'he' decides they want to be a 'they' or a 'she.' And he already understands that it's very real for BIPOC to be treated differently from white people — and that it's not okay. Lastly, his social skills outshine those of lots of older kids we know because of the way the teachers patiently, from day one, model how to talk to other people whenever there is a conflict or someone gets hurt.

    The teachers and the community are incredible and we even have a part-time Spanish Immersion program. I can't say enough good things about this school. We'll be having a virtual info night sometime in January (date TBD) so if any of that sounds interesting look us up!

  • Hello all,

    I’m going through the OUSD kindergarten sign-ups and I noticed that the public schools have very little recess time.  I’m not sure if this is even an option, but are there any programs with a bit more free-play/outside time?  My son is bright but also very hyper/energetic and I want to give him a program that teaches school fundamentals for first grade but that also allows for extra energy burn off. 

    Thanks for any suggestions!



    “Recess” is just one kind of down time. My experience with our OUSD kindergarten was that it was basically all free time after lunch, although a mixture of inside and outside. The teachers had tons of bins of legos, trains, blocks, etc., that were used for small group or partner play. The kindergarten teachers said that in their experience, there wasn’t much capacity for academic work after lunch.

    Don't worry too much about the formal schedule. Anyone who teaches five-year-olds for a living knows that you don't need to wait for official recess time to burn off some energy. Hopefully a kindergarten teacher joins the info sessions that you're participating in and will tell you that, too.

    This won’t help your Kinder, but I recommend taking a look at Pacific Boychoir Academy’s day school when your son is in 2nd grade. We were in OUSD K-2 and made the jump to private school for 3rd grade. The school “gets” boys and caters to their unique needs, which includes ample recess time but also meditation and mindfulness. And of course a world class music education too. Tuition is manageable, unlike many private schools in the area. 

    Grand lake Montessori or Mills College School. Both are about significantly cheaper than other private schools. We looked into both but with Covid, we are using that money for tutors and extracurricular activities. 

    Have you considered Walden Center & School? It's a small, independent school located in Berkeley near the corner of Dwight and MLK. I live in Oakland, but both of my children attend Walden, and we have had a really great experience there. One of the first things my son said when he started school there three years ago was, "We have so much outside time!"  It's run by teacher collective, and it primarily relies on parents to volunteer for cleaning, landscaping, and general upkeep, which not only allows parents to become personally invested in the school, but also keeps tuition costs down. I find that tuition at Walden is considerably more affordable than other private schools in the area. Walden also offers financial aid for those families who need it. Walden is offering an information session and several virtual tours in January 2021, so you should check it out. One of my children is currently in Kindergarten, so I would also be happy to answer any specific questions you may have about the Kindergarten experience at Walden.

  • Hi families,

    We will be applying to elementary schools coming up in the next few months and are hoping to share any kind of dialogue with other families who have thoughts or advice. We are in the Montclair school district and while I have read up on the OUSD assignment system and read threads on different schools, I am curious how to become more familiar with them specially in Covid times. Are tours happening? Is it reasonable or naive to assume schools will be "back to normal" before applications are due? Has Covid made any families switch their game plans to private? How did you pick your elementary school (even if you didn't get first choice)?

    Thanks in advance!


    We have twins who are starting kindergarten in 2021 and have many of the same questions. I sent an email today to OUSD and the principal of our neighborhood school (Sankofa) to find out more about tours/info sessions. I can let you know if I hear anything. 


    Hello - my daughter will be in K starting 2021 as well, and I have the same questions, so thank you for posting!


    We have a Kinder this year and a 2nd grader in OUSD at a school similar to Montclair. I can't imagine they are holding in-person tours at this point. Even if school goes back in-person(which I don't think will happen for our school at all this school year) I think they will not allow any other people on campus. They may be holding online "tours" where you can listen to the Principal speak. Each school does something different so it's best to reach out to the schools you want to list on your application to find out. I can say that at our school there have been many families that have left. In my daughter's kinder class we have had about 8 kids leave-some went to private and some decided to keep their kids in preschool another year. My son's 2nd grade has lost about 5 kids. Some left for private school and some were looking for a more stable distance learning option and found online charter schools and one moved away. I don't think schools in OUSD will be back to normal before applications are due, unfortunately.  From communication we have received from the district homeless children and kids participating in special education classes will go back to in-person school first and that may not be until January. It is going to be pretty hard to get a feel for each school via an online tour. I would recommend trying to find parent reviews on schools you want to apply to. Good luck. 

    I'm a parent at Chabot, and I can tell you that we are not planning to hold in-person tours this year. There will definitely be opportunities for online info sessions. I can also tell you that I doubt very much that school will be "back to normal" before the application deadline. OUSD has announced that we definitely won't go back until January at the earliest, and even if we do go back to some form of in-person learning by then, it is not sounding like it will be "normal." (This is for OUSD as a whole.) So I wouldn't count on being able to observe "normal" school in person prior to early February, when you have to submit your options forms.

    To your question about families switching to private school during Covid... YES. That is happening, at least at Chabot. We had a pretty big exodus right at the start of the school year. (Although I can say as someone with one kid in private and one kid in public, I am not seeing many differences in the quality of online learning. The big difference between public and private during covid is in the amount and clarity of communication with parents. But I'm sure that experiences vary dramatically based on specific teachers.)

    As for how to pick an elementary school, may I suggest that you give a listen to this podcast? (It's Integrated Schools, Season 5, Episode 7).

    It highlights the fact that often the factors parents care about most are not the factors that are measured and reported. So we tend to overemphasize measures that don't actually reflect what we care about (e.g., standardized test scores, which are most reliable at telling us the socioeconomic status of the student) or we default to trusting our social networks, which is a totally rational approach, but in an environment where there is parental choice, it often leads to schools that are segregated by class and race. I found it really thought-provoking. (This podcast as a whole is very thought provoking!) And if I had it to do over again, I'm not sure I would have made the same choices. Good luck navigating all this during a difficult year!

    We are facing the same choice about kindergarten, as our four-year-old is in pre-K now and we're moving to Berkeley this December.

  • OUSD elementary shout-outs!

    Oct 15, 2019

    If your family is happy with your OUSD school, will you please give it a shout out here? School tours are starting later this month, and I'd love to hear from current families about OUSD schools that have been great for them.

    THANK YOU for taking the time!

    Joaquin Miller is fantastic -- the principal is excellent, teachers are good to great, and it's a wonderful, diverse community, with kids from all over Oakland. Both my daughters have been at JM since kindergarten -- this is our sixth year and counting -- and they have both thrived there. Feel free to reach out if you have any specific questions!


    I have one child at Chabot and another at Emerson.

    Chabot is obviously a very good school academically. Beautiful campus and great teachers. Nice families. Drawbacks are the size of the school makes it hard to connect and since there are 4 classes per grade your kid ends up not having much overlap with friends in the same class as the years progress.

    Emerson, a school not as well “rated”, I love so much. The community is very tight knit. There are tons of wonderful events and community building (more than Chabot). The parents are extremely warm and open. My child has only been there one year, but his teacher is beyond excellent. I would recommend both wonderful schools, but especially look into Emerson! Good luck!

    There likely isn't space beyond neighborhood kids, but in the spirit of shouting out to OUSD schools: We love love love Hillcrest and its amazing parent community!

    We love our elementary school - Kaiser. But OUSD has decide to close it's campus and "merge" it with Sankofa. My advice to you would be to familiarize yourself with the "blueprint for Quality" schools and what is happening in OUSD currently. The school you choose could be closed in a year or two. Good luck.

    Cleveland Elementary School! It is a high performing and truly diverse school (both economically, culturally, and racially). Superb leadership among teachers, administrators, and PTA. Unique ecoliteracy program. Fantastic and involved school community without the "Hills" attitude or expectation. The school's core values of Inclusiveness and Respect are very well integrated throughout.  It has all the problems that all OUSD schools share, but if you have to choose OUSD, I think this is among the best and authentically represents Oakland's diversity. My kid is doing pretty well and has made some great friends. The school community isn't wealthy, but PTA raises a lot of money to support music, art, and ecoliteracy programs. All kids get free lunch. 

    We second that L O V E shout-out for Hillcrest! We were generally happy in the K-5 elementary (but there were 2 bumpy years) and we are THRILLED with the incredible 6-8 Middle School - just outstanding and a solid rival to local independent middle schools. Academically, it scores in the top 10% of public MS's in California. It's hard to get in ... and it's a small school ... the MS in particular is about 100 kids and if your child doesn't have a solid friend base, that can rough. But for those who do, the community of friends and parents at Hillcrest is exceptional. And we experience none of the stressful nonsense that our friends are coping with at larger middle schools around the East Bay - violence, drugs/alcohol, sex on campus. Good policies re devices/phones. Children learn and explore, work hard, enjoy health and safety, and thrive. So grateful that we got in - our whole family has benefited so much from this fun, supportive community.

  • Hi, I'm looking at kindergarten enrollment for the fall. Is it too late to find a place? I know I can get on waitlists, but had anyone had any luck getting in off of waitlists after joining the waitlist this late? Are there any kindergartens that still have openings? We'd thought we were going to keep my kiddo in another year of preschool, but now we think that kindergarten would be the better route. We're in Oakland, and we're open to public, charter, or private schools. Thanks!

    It's definitely late in the game if you want one of the in-demand OUSD or charter schools, but you still have some options. First, if you live in a neighborhood zoned to the school you want, you will bump up the list even as a late applicant, so that's the first place I'd look. If your neighborhood school isn't a good fit, you may want to consider waiting to apply until September to see what's open at that point. The waitlists (which are lengthy) only go through the second week of school; after that they dissolve and new applicants are placed wherever there is space. Your other option would be private school; almost all will have spots for late applicants if you don't need financial aid (and some may still be able to provide aid, too). That might not be a bad option for a child on the cusp of being ready, since class sizes are smaller and at the end of the year you could assess where things stand and decide whether to move onto first or repeat kinder at a new school (and would be able to apply on time for public spots). Good luck!

    Hi Betsy,

    I think the school my kids attend has openings for Kindergarten. It is a great Montessori school with a very strong immersion program in Spanish and French. There is an open house in July 14th. Check the

    Good luck,


Hi, I can't speak to Cragmont or even BUSD schools, but we did switch my son from OUSD where he attended kindergarten back to the school he attended for pre-K (EBI).  He had a wonderful teacher at Chabot (he got really lucky), so that was not the problem for him, but it was clear that the OUSD model was a bad fit for him.  He started off the school year excited about his new school but he soon changed from the happiest kid in the world, one who, at EBI, could barely be bothered to say goodbye at drop off and was always begging to be the last one picked up at the end of aftercare, to an unrecognizably sad kid who actually cried when I left his classroom after I volunteered and lashed out in all manner of other surprising ways.  Since I volunteered about once a week (until it became clear to me and the teacher that I was causing more harm than good), I think I understand the problem. There really is truth to that saying that kindergarten is the new first grade. And to accomplish that mandate re reading/writing/math, etc. -- especially where there is only one teacher for 22 wriggly and unfocused 5-6 year olds, some of whom require more attention than others -- there is necessarily a lot of worksheet work and an emphasis on body control.  For some children this is not a problem.  And for some parents, accountability re these metrics is paramount.  But that is not so much the case for my son.  He was used to learning in a far more organic way, having much more freedom to play and explore and pursue his interests, having an outlet for his curiosity, and working and interacting with other kids in the classroom.  We didn't realize how important these things were for him (and by extension, to us) until we tried to switch him to a different model.  And FYI, this is not a child that transitions poorly or has any difficulty making friends.  

He is in second grade now at EBI and he is reading and writing above grade level in English (though spelling is atrocious), he is above grade level in math, and he can also speak Spanish (very well), and read and write in Spanish (well, but not as well as in English).  But most importantly, he loves school.  I mean, so much that he gets slightly depressed during holidays.  

We never expected to be in private school, especially where we have the option to attend a very highly ranked free school where all my neighbors' kids seem to be doing well.  I assume the finance piece is the biggest concern for you, as it was for us.  It was definitely not an easy decision, and we feel fortunate that we are in a position to make the decision at all, but in the end we felt like 6 was too young to hate, or at least, mentally check out of, school.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

June 2009

See also: Transitioning to all-day kindergarten

May 2005

I have heard from multiple sources that the Oakland Unified school district is seriously considering lengthening the school day for kindergarten in the fall-- in response to stressed out teachers that can't fit all they need/want to teach into a few hours, research stating that a longer day is a huge benefit to kids, the district wanting to bring back familes that have opted for private school, and other various reasons. But...when I call the district or our local school to find out, no one really seems to know what's going on, or bothers to return my call. Does anyone out there know about this, or how I can show my support for it? Thanks in advance. hopeful mama

I've heard that OUSD is going to all day K in Fall. Does anyone know about this for certain? What are the pros and cons of all day K? What about teacher workload issues?? Thanks! Julie

My understanding is that the OUSD is starting all day kindergarten in certain schools starting in Sept. 05. I have a son entering kindergarten at Joaquin Miller, which will have the new schedule. All day kindergarten will be adopted by schools this year where there is space available for extra classroom(s). Some schools currently have AM and PM kindergarten classes that share a classroom. Unless an extra classroom can be found to accommodate the new schedule, these schools will be given a year to arrange for a new space and will retain their current kindergarten schedule for the upcoming school year. Bottom line: check with your local elementary school! Charlotte

My son is entering Kindergarten next Fall at Crocker. I also just found out they are doing the long day. I am excited about it. I am a tiny bit worried that it will be a long week for him, but I think the benefits will outway that. Before, the hours were even shorter than his preschool...I had had a big concern with the short day that there was such little time for creative, enrichment and free was all about the ciriculum, which in my opinion is not appropriate for what a kid that age needs. I had talked to some teachers before it was approved. They were hoping it would happen-they ! said they asked for it to happen. They were very stressed with the short day not having enough time to do with the kids what they wanted to do. With more hours, they do not plan to add any more cirriculum, but add all enrichment type stuff and more free play and be able to go deeper with what they are learning. They want the long day.

As for longer work day for the teachers, I'm not an expert, but I believe that they are already contracted to stay until 3 anyway, so they won't necessarily have more hours to work. They will have less prep time, but the teachers I talked to seemed to rather have more time with kids than more prep time. That's what I know.

The benefits of all-day vs. half-day kindergarten depend on the instructional program offered in each! My oldest daughter attended half-day kindergarten at Peralta School in North Oakland, and I'm hoping that the program will continue to be half-day when my twins attend Kindergarten there in 2006. The program at Peralta is especially rich because of its half-day structure. Both the morning and afternoon kindergarten teachers are in the classroom all day collaborating & supporting each other. During a significant portion of each day, the children are divided into small groups, with each teacher supervising a group & a very experienced teacher's aide superviding a third group, resulting in an adult-child ratio of 3 to 20, rather than 1 to 20 as it is in many full-day programs. Although the children are in class for less time than children in full-day programs (approx. 45 minutes less when you take out time spent at lunch), the instruction they get is of higher quality because of the more direct contact they receive from teachers as a result of the lower adult-child ratio. The children receive enrichment & playtime in afterschool activities (either the on-site program or elsewhere). I would be very sorry to see a unique high-quality program like Peralta's eliminated in order to conform to a standardized district model. Hopefully that won't happen since our school building wasn't built to accomodate the extra classroom space that would be required for two all-day classes. Susan